If you want to learn about Oklahoma’s history way before it became a state, take a trip to the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Here you can see dinosaurs, get an idea of current animals native to the state, and learn about the history of the natives who lived here before us.
Opened on May 1, 2000, this museum is popular with schools and any parents who have dinosaur loving children. There is so much to learn here as well. Upstairs is the Hall of the People of Oklahoma exhibit, here you can learn about the residents in Oklahoma over the past 36,000 years. There are clovis tools on display along with a map showing where these items were found. Spiro Mounds is also featured prominently in this exhibit, with several items that were unearthed from the mounds in the late 1930’s. There are reproductions of Native homes and transportation as well as artifacts from those who lived here many thousands of years ago.
Another part of the museum is the Hall of Natural Wonders which has taxidermy of animals that are native to Oklahoma. It’s a nice way for kids to get up close to an animal. They have been placed in settings that are natural to their habitat.
Of course, the big draw to the museum are the dinosaurs. The Hall of Ancient Life where you can trace the history of the Earth from formation. You can see the different time periods that dinosaurs roamed the lands. They do have the largest skull on record for the Pentaceratops. You can also get in the elevator and see the Apatosaurus looking at you. Several of the smaller dinosaurs were unearthed in the Tillman County area of southwest Oklahoma. I like to make the joke that some of them were pets that my dad had.
The long history of the museum goes back to 1899 when the territorial legislature created the Department of Geology and Natural History. The first curator of the museum was Dr. Albert Heald Van Fleet, who spent much of his time collecting artifacts. There were 2 fires, the first in 1903, the second in 1918, that damaged much of the collection. But professors at the University of Oklahoma kept collecting and displaying artifacts in buildings around campus. After many attempts to fund a proper museum, this museum found a home in 1947. Housed in former military buildings on Asp Avenue, south of the main campus, it became the Stovall Museum of Science and History. Named after Dr. J Willis Stovall who came to the university in 1930 and helped fight for funding to house the collection. While the collection grew, there was a danger of the artifacts being destroyed by fire or water, so in 1991 the city of Norman passed a bond that helped the state fund the new building. The new building is named after Samuel Noble, an oilman from Ardmore.
I always enjoyed the Stovall Museum and now enjoy this new museum as well. I encourage all to visit if they are in Norman. It is a fun way to learn about the early history of Oklahoma.
Address: 2401 Chautauqua Ave., Norman.